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Senate Democrats Pass Paid Family Leave; Veto Expected

NHPR file

On a party line vote, Senate Democrats passed a paid family medical leave bill Thursday despite a near certain veto by Gov. Chris Sununu.

The measure, House Bill 712, is similar to a proposal Sununu vetoed last year. 

Under the plan, workers would be able to take up to 12 weeks off to take care of a sick family member or themselves following the birth or adoption of a child.

Republican say the funding mechanism for the program--a 0.5 percent payroll deduction--amounts to an income tax. 

But Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, a Democrat, told colleagues that the income tax label is inaccurate because the money would provide individuals a direct benefit, rather than go into state coffers. Companies would also have the option of paying for the program themselves, or sharing the cost with workers as a benefit.

“Calling this an income tax has been a way from the very beginning to kill legislation that we should be putting in place to help all of our workers,” said Fuller Clark. 

Republicans are backing a voluntary program that would allow workers to opt in, but Democrats say that would exclude the lower-income workers who would need the program the most.

Sen. Jeb Bradley, a Republican from Wolfeboro, asked Democrats to consider putting off a vote so the two sides could attempt to find a compromise, though that suggestion was rebuffed.

“It’s unfortunate that after all the discussion that we’ve had over the last three years, that we are no further along on getting to yes,” said Bradley.

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University. He can be reached at tbookman@nhpr.org.
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